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The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

P. O. Box 3793
Minneapolis MN 55403

1924 Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Fencing Details

1932 winter scene
This winter view on Christmas Day 1932 shows part of Eloise Butler's original fence. Photo taken by Martha Crone.

In order to really secure the Garden from large animals, vandals and people that just wandered in from all directions, it had to be securely fence and equipped with gates that could be locked. Eloise Butler even resorted to the newspaper on two occasions to state her case for a fence.

Ms. Butler's worst menace was "spooners". A headline in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1923 read: "Glenwood Park Wants Wire Fence to Keep Out Spooners." The article explained Ms. Butler's thoughts that cats and dogs may leave a trail in the vegetation but spooners were the real problem. The full text read as follows:

It’s not the wild, voracious mosquito-
It’s not the snooping vagabond dog -
Nor is it the pussy-footing feline -
But it’s the demon surreptitious spooner thats brought the need for an encircling barbed wire fence around the wild flower garden in Glenwood Park to save plants of incalculable scientific value from destruction. A stray cat will pitter patter into the garden and leave a narrow trail. A dog seeking food perhaps in the shape of a ribbit (sic) will snoop through and leave a wider wallow -
But the spooning couple -
(Eloise Butler quote) “For destructive properties the army of tussock worms is a piker when compared with the Spooner” (1)

In a 1924 newspaper article (pdf) during an interview she was quoted saying “The fence is needed to keep our the few vandals who destroy in a few minutes the work of years and spoil the garden for the rest of the visitors.” The article concluded - “Tired of waiting years for it to be built, she finally is having it put up herself.” (2)

While this was may have been partially accomplished prior to 1924, the Park Board could not allocate funds to complete fencing. In the fall of 1924, Eloise contracted herself, at her own expense, to have the fencing completed for a sum of $696.10. She paid $400 down, gave a note for $200 to be paid within a month or when the fence was completed, and the final amount by a note to be paid in the spring of 1925. Before it could be completed she had to leave for her annual return to Malden Massachusetts.

One set of fences or two?
She could not afford to fence the entire area of the Garden, so we believe two enclosures were built which she referred to as the North Enclosure and the South Enclosure, the north protecting the wetland orchids, both enclosures are referenced with a “brook” running through them. After she announces completion on July 16, 1924 she begins as early as Aug. 1st to note planting in the “north enclosure.” This would imply that there was another enclosure but she does not mention actually planting anything in this “south enclosure” by name until October 8, 1925, although there are numerous entries in the log prior to that of planting “near fence” without stating which fence.

Back in Malden, She writes to the Crones (Martha and William) that she had informed Park Superintendent Wirth about what she did and never asked for reimbursement. She was pleasantly surprised to receive a note from him promising a check for the full amount by early December. Thus she says “You may believe that I am very happy.” (3) Some of the fencing was of a temporary nature and it was not until 1938 that a permanent fence built by a WPA crew enclosed the Garden.

Below: The 1938 Fence, just completed, erected by a WPA crew. Photo ©Walter Dahlberg.

1938 Fence

(1) Minneapolis Tribune article, 1923. Minnesota Historical Society, Martha Crone Papers.
(2) Minneapolis Tribune article, 1924. Minnesota Historical Society, Martha Crone Papers. (pdf copy)
(3) Letter to the Crones, November 29, 1924 from Malden, Massachusetts (pdf copy) Also Ken Avery notes April 1973.

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